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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Coal Seam Gas: the Commonwealth's regulatory role

A recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A series in Tamworth discussed state and Commonwealth responsibility for coal seam gas and coal mining project regulation and raised the question: how is the Commonwealth involved in the regulation of coal seam gas (CSG)? Read more...

Tiny plastics causing big problems in our oceans

There is growing concern over the problem of plastic pollution in the marine environment. Over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 269,000 tons, are believed to be spread throughout the earth’s oceans. Plastics decay slowly and often travel far from their origin in ocean currents, leading to accumulation in the marine environment and even the remote oceans around Antarctica, which contain approximately 50,000 plastic particles per square kilometre. Larger plastic items tend to degrade into smaller plastics and can become ‘microplastics’ (generally classified as plastics smaller than 5mm in size). Primary microplastics, including microbeads, are manufactured deliberate... Read more...

Keeping our sharks....at a distance

In the last three years there have been six fatal shark attacks on popular beaches in Western Australia. In response, the state government announced on 10 December 2013 a program to catch large sharks (great white, bull and tiger) near heavily used beaches off Perth and the state’s South West (from Capel to Margaret River). The government program deploys baited drum lines one kilometre offshore, but this has been opposed by conservation groups because of the incidental catch of non-target species and the fact that the great white shark is a threatened species.  Read more...

The Tarkine: more than just a forest?

The recent statement by Greens leader Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club that 'Labor has walked away from its agreement with the Greens…so be it', led to the airing of several government decisions that her party was unhappy with. One of the key issues was Labor’s decision on the Tarkine in Tasmania, which she said was evidence that the government gave priority to mining interests.The 439,000 hectares (ha) of the Tarkine includes Australia’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest and is home to many rare species. But on the 8th of February Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that only a small part of the region would receive National Heritage listing. Is the Tarkine ... Read more...

Commonwealth legislating to ban large trawler

The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, has moved amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) Act. This will give the Government the powers to prevent the trawler, Abel Tasman, from fishing in Australian waters for up to two years while a scientific study on its impacts is carried out. The major issues with the vessel are its large size and fishing capability, which far exceeds any other fishing vessel in Australian waters, and possible impacts on protected species.The 142m long, 9,500 tonnes (t) mid-water trawler with freezer capacity of 6,200 t, previously registered as the Margiris in Lithuania... Read more...

New marine reserve proposals

The Commonwealth is proposing the proclamation of 44 new marine reserves covering a total of 2.34 million square kilometres by the end of the year. The move has drawn criticism from fisheries bodies for excluding fishing in substantial areas of the ocean; at the other end of the spectrum, some conservation bodies were disappointed that the government had not banned oil and gas exploration in areas adjacent to existing marine parks. The proposal for 44 new reserves was released on 14 June 2012 as part of the Marine Bioregional planning exercise. This exercise covered five Marine Regions (South-west, North-west, North, and East (Temperate East) and Coral Sea). The proposed marine reserves cont... Read more...

Coal seam gas: should the gates be locked?

Coal seam gas! It’s controversial and in the news every day. Why has it suddenly become an issue? What is going on? The exploration for and development of coal seam gas (CSG) is a relatively new and small activity in Australia, but the size of the estimated CSG resource suggests that it could grow to become a major industry, and an important new energy export sector. But only if it can overcome some problems.  Coal seam gas occurs naturally in most coal seams and is trapped there by the confining pressure of groundwater. Chemically it is the same as natural gas (i.e. mostly methane) extracted from conventional oil and gas deposits. See the Library’s Background Note for further details.  In i... Read more...

Proposed Changes to Environmental Protection law

The principal federal environmental legislation over the past eleven years has been the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In 2008 the then Minister for the Environment Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, commissioned an independent review into the EPBC Act. The review was undertaken by an expert panel led by Dr Allan Hawke, and the report was tabled in Parliament on 21 December 2009. The review put forward 71 recommendations. The Australian Government has now released its response to the review on 24 August 2011. In a speech to the National Press Club, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, outlin... Read more...

Raising awareness on palm oil

On 23 June 2011, the Coalition joined with the Greens and the independent Senator Nick Xenophon to ensure the Senate passed the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling—Palm Oil) Bill 2011 (the private members’ Bill has yet to be introduced into the House of Representatives). There are two main issues identified with palm oil: the environmental effects of plantations (including loss of tropical rainforest), and the health effects of palm oil versus other vegetable oils. Palm oil is a product of the oil palm tree, which grows only in tropical climates. Highly versatile, palm oil is widely used in the manufacture of food products, cosmetics, detergents and bio-fuel. Increasing demand for t... Read more...

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